As part of Cleveland Magazine's 30th anniversary celebration, the editors have chosen 52 of their favorite stories from the magazine's archives, and wish to share them with you.
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From Cleveland Magazine, December 1975
Cleveland's original Ghoulardi, Ernie Anderson, was working as the announcer at one of the recent Democratic Party national telethons. During a station break, as Anderson was walking across the Hollywood Palace stage, a voice called out from the studio audience.
"Hey! Aren't you Ernie Anderson?"
Ernie turned to see a fat man standing, pointing at him. "Yeah," replied Ernie, nodding.
"I'm from Toledo," the man explained. "Jesus Christ, the Missus and I thought you had passed away."
Not only is Ernie Anderson "alive and well and Jiving in Hollywood," as the old bromide goes, but he's riding a high crest of professional success with the deceptive grace of a surfer hanging ten.
Ernie Anderson, at 52, has become one of the hottest talents on the West Coast in voice-over announcing - a competitive specialty little known to the public. Commercials, movie preview trailers, TV promotional spots, TV shows - you name it - Ernie's narrating it. His smooth baritone voice, with its distinctive graniteedged articulation and dash of nasal timbre, has been opening the Carol Burnett Show ("From Television City in Hollywood ... it's the Carol Burnett Show!")j tempting us to stay tuned to ABC-TV ("When you get in trouble, you- call the Police. When the police get in trouble, they call S.W.A.T.!"), exhorting us to see Earthquake ("Even more terrific in Sensurround!") and telling us the sponsor's identity ("These historic minutes are sponsored each night by Shell").
Voice-over, by it's nature, is an anonymous art. Only when name actors do voice-overs, do we link faces to the voices. It is no wonder then that most Clevelanders who have only glimpsed Ernie Anderson in the occasional on-camera bits he does (the Carol Burnett Show, chiefly) had consigned the one-time Ghoulardi to semi-failure in the big time. For them, seeing is believing ... but for Ernie Anderson, hearing is believing.
Though he frequently works at the larger studios like CBS Television City and Universal, Ernie plies his craft chiefly in the small recording studios that dot a several-square-mile section of Hollywood. Here is where Ernie Anderson makes "making it" look so easy.
Ernie saunters into the assigned recording studio in the brown stucco B and B Productions building. The recording studio, the size of a modest living room, is carpeted and acoustically tiled to absorb echoes. Ernie seats himself on a chair-backed swivel stool and puts the script on a music stand, which is covered with sound-deadening velvet. He positions himself a few inches behind the hanging boom microphone and reads a few lines for the engineer to set the recording level. The engineer rolls the tape, and over the talkback P.A. speaker the producer's voice says, "One," cueing the first take.
And Ernie Anderson reads the first line of copy of a TV preview ,trailer for a forthcoming adventure movie: "George Segal puts a new spin on suspense ... in Russian Roulette!"
"We got a pop on suspense," the producer advises on the talkback.
Ernie peers over his half-frame reading glasses into the control room window and nods. He reads the second take, this time eliminating the "pop" caused by what had been a too forceful pronunciation of the "p" sound in suspense.
Each line is read about eight times. Occasionally Ernie fluffs a take, and
he mutters an oath. More often, the producer wants a slight change - a bit faster
tempo, more emphasis on a word or a different emotional coloring on a phrase.
Sometimes Ernie himself will ask for another take to do a line his way. The various takes will be cut apart and edited and re-edited to the whims of an ascending hierarchy of producers and executives to meet the subjective criterion of what "sounds right."
Coming out of the studio into the bright California sunshine, Ernie Anderson
looks older than the 40year-old Ghoulardi we all remember. The trademark grey
temples are bushier now, and the grey has crept into what had been the pure
black hair on top. But he's shed some pounds since the Channel 8 days, and with
his light California tan, on balance, he looks handsomer.
"Sure, man, it does look easy," says Ernie, relaxing over cigarettes and coffee before the next recording session. "But you have to know how to play to that microphone ... to be able to hear the little nuances in your own voice. Actors tend to over-project, instead of playing to that mike." As if catching himself for having become too pedantic, he adds, "Then too, a lot of where I'm at today is because of luck. Like my ol' man always said, 'Ernie, you're a fool for luck.' "
Recently Anderson has been eased in as the new "voice" of ABC-TV. He now records all the narration on those short promotional spots for ABC-TV network programs and movies. Merely luck? Ask Chuck Blore.
Radio producer Chuck Blore is the doyen of sound production in the West Coast advertising industry. Ernie acknowledges Blore to be "the one person most responsible for my voice-over success."
"Ernie Anderson's voice," says Blore, a man who hears voices the way a connoisseur characterizes a wine's vintage, "is an excellent mid-range voice. It gives the impression of warmth and friendliness. It says very subtly, 'You can trust me.' And yet, the distinctive quality of Ernie's voice never intrudes on the message he's delivering.
"Ernie makes it look easy because for him it is easy," says Blore.
"But it takes 10 to 15 years of work to get your voice to that professional
level. Even longer training, in fact, than a lawyer or a doctor," he notes.
Driving along Hollywood Boulevard to the next recording session, Ernie casually eyes the passing sidewalk tourists and locals. Does he miss the crowds and the mob scenes of the Channel 8 Ghoulardi days?
"You outgrow being a local hero," he says in a matter-of-fact voice. "Don't get me wrong, the kids were really great. But after a while I couldn't go anywhere without being stopped on the street. It got to the point that when we scheduled charity games for the Ghoulardi All Stars, the first thing we'd ask was, 'Will you have enough cops for crowd controlT "
The second recording session of the afternoon is kriown as a ,'pickup" - some minor changes on a previous session. This session well illustrates Ernie Anderson's financial success. He has one line to record: "Consult your newspaper for theater and time." This tag will be added to a TV movie trailer. Counting time spent for a cup of coffee on the way in and another on the way out, Ernie does the half-dozen takes in 15 minutes. He gets union scale for this job: $172.50.
Using this minimum (and Ernie gets more than minimums on lucrative national commercials) and a bit of simple multiplication ... 4 jobs a day ... 5 days a week ... 52 weeks a year ... it's easy to see how Anderson is pulling in a sixfigure income.
This also makes it understandable why Ernie really isn't so hot these days
to seek acting roles. "You're in there all day," Ernie explains, "for the same
minimum scale. Plus you have to memorize your lines instead of just reading
them." Ernie was able to get around his self-admitted laziness about memorizing
dialog when he played a newscaster on last year's Emmy-winning TV movie, The
Law. Knowing that producer William Sackheim is a stickler for authenticity,
Anderson argued that real newsmen use TelePrompTers. So Sackheim ordered
a TelePrompTer, and Ernie read his part.
Ernie's laziness and irreverent Ghoulardian humor (since mellowed) hardly fit the stereotype of the pious, industrious New Englander. But Ernie Anderson does hail from Lynn, Massachusetts.
During his college days after a World War II Navy stint, Ernie got a summer announcer's job at a small Vermont station. He loved it and spent the '50s spinning Doris Day/Perry Como platters in Providence, Rhode Island and Troy, New York.
He arrived in Cleveland in 1958 to take up residence at WHK. But rock-and-roll arrived there shortly after he did, and Ernie was fired. Anderson decided to quit the nomadic life of a radio D.J. and to get into local TV. He landed an announcer's job at KYW (now WKYC). The job was a very lucky break, for it was here that Ernie met a thin-haired would-be comedy writer from Chagrin Falls named Tim Conway.
In 1961 Anderson and Conway sold their own show to WJW-TV. Ernie's Place had been on the air for barely a month when Conway was "discovered" by some visiting CBS stars. While Hollywood eagerly sought a new funny man, they didn't need another straight man, so Ernie remained in Cleveland.
But it worked out for the best. While announcing commercials for Sohio and Ohio Bell, Anderson was asked to host WJW's new Friday night horror movie starting in February 1963. No one, including Ernie, even remotely anticipated what would happen.
For the next four years Ernie Anderson as Ghoulardi reigned as northeastern Ohio's most popular and controversial TV personality ever.
But by late 1966 Ernie Anderson had tired of his ghoulish alter ego. As Ernie
puts it, "I didn't want to be a 50-year-old Ghoulardi." Also, a West Coast ad
agency had sold his audition for a national commercial, and Ernie's marriage
(of almost 20 years and 5 children) was ending in divorce. It was time to make
his break to Hollywood.
After 16 years Ernie Anderson and Tim Conway are still each other's best friend. When asked about Ernie's decision to tackle the West Coast, Conway brightens into a remembering smile. The smile goes well with the dried tomato sauce that speckles the comic from head to toe as he relaxes between takes at Walt Disney Studios. Tim is working on Gus. He plays a I'mulenapper" who gets kicked into a pile of tomatoes while trying to kidnap a Yugoslavian mule named Gus, who kicks field goals for a pro football team! (Remember, this is Disney!)
"Ernie came out here," says Tim, "with 20 cents in his pocket. He didn't have a place to live. He didn't have anything. He just came out and said, 'I'm going to do it,' and he did it." While Tim did give Ernie a few small parts on Tim's trio of short-lived series, Tim says there was little he could do with the commercial end of it. "Ernie just tackled the advertising agencies on his own, stuck to it and made it."
In a business where friendship is often as enduring as "What can you do for my career?", Ernie and Tim are true friends. Why? Tim answers, "We both look at the industry in the same light: We both enjoy it. We both make a living from it. Neither one of us takes i seriously." That sounds reasonable enough from a man covered with dried tomato sauce.
Today Ernie Anderson seems honestly satisfied and happy. He owns an attractive home in an upper-class district of Studio City. In Hollywood, one has arrived when one's house has a pedigree. Ernie's home was formerly owned by Allan Young, the Mr. Ed star, who quit showbiz for religion. Show folk in this quiet neighborhood include the likes of Andy Griffith and Pat Paulsen.
Ernie's second wife is pretty Edwina Gough (ed-WIN-ah GOFF), whom he met at a Cleveland advertising agency back when he and Tim Conway were producing commercials. Clevelanders will remember Edwina's appearances on, those White Dove Mattress commercials ("Never needs turning".).' Edwina still acts in commercials, specializing in "wacky housewife types" for Contac and La Choy, When she isn't mugging for the camera, her blonde, pixie good looks call to mind a young Sue Ann Langdon.
Easterners Edwina and Ernie have adopted California as home. "This is where
our friends are," Ernie explains. Their friends include the Joe Hamiltons (CarolBurnett)
and the so-called "Cleveland Clan": Tim Conway (of course), Jack Riley (the
diffident Mr. Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show), Pat McCormick (the giantsized
Johnny Carson comedy writer) and Ann Elder (comedienne and writer for Mitzi
Because it's been almost 10 years since Ernie uttered his last "turn blue", he's astonished that people still remember him as Ghoulardi. "You may not believe this," he forewarns, "but this really happened: A few weeks ago I was stopped at a crosswalk in Hollywood where a housewife was pushing a baby stroller across. In front of the car, she stopped and stared at me. She came around to my window and asked me. 'Aren't you Ghoulardi?' After 10 years, man!"
As Ernie relaxes in his den with a chilled beer in hand, he seems mellowly contented. He has professional sional success, an attractive young wife, three lively children by this marriage (Kathryn 6, Paul 5, and Amanda 9 months), a full-time maid, a gardener, two hunting dogs, one miniature poodle, two kittens (found in the woodpile out back and now adopted), a rabbit and a laying hen!
It seems too pat for this cynical age when the chic thing is to look at material success with disdain. There has to be something lacking.
Finally Ernie relents. "The only time I wish I were some kind of star out here is when I go with my friends to one of those celebrity golf tournaments. I have to pay to get in or mumble my way in as a friend of so-and-so."
OK, Ernie Anderson is successful and happy. What's the magic formula?Ernie shrugs; he doesn't know.
You didn't set some goals when you started out?"No. Some people do, but not me. I take one day at a time. If that phone stops ringing for commercials, I'll narrate industrial films. There's always something."
Drive, ambition - that wasn't important?
This gets a laugh from Edwina. "Ernie is lazy," she says. "Really lazy."The only thing left ... is ... luck?
Ernie wags affirmatively. He lets Edwina say it for him. She says, "Ernie's father always told him. 'Ernie, you're a fool for luck. You could fall down a well and you'd come up wearing a tuxedo.'"